Having spent his 13 years at F-Prime Partners backing and advising rare disease companies — including Dimension Therapeutics and Orchard Therapeutics, which he co-founded — Ben Auspitz is in the game again with a brand new biotech startup.
Co-leading a $30 million Series A round for Modis Therapeutics with OrbiMed, Auspitz is jumping in as board chairman. As for the CEO post, F-Prime has tapped one of its entrepreneurs-in-residence, Joshua Grass, who’s also a 15-year BD veteran at BioMarin.
Headquartered in Oakland, CA with offices in New York City, Modis has a clearly defined focus on mitochondrial DNA depletion disorders, a group of genetic diseases that could affect the brain, muscles and any number of organs.
Michio Hirano of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Ramon Martí at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Research Institute are credited for Modis’ lead therapy, MT1621, which treats the thymidine kinase 2 deficiency (TK2d), a potentially fatal muscle-weakening disease. The drug itself is mix of nucleosides that the researchers believe can address the cause of mitochondrial dysfunction and has shown to prolong survival in animal models.
Collaborators in Spain have begun to test MT1621 in humans, too, with “encouraging results.”
“This is a compelling orphan drug development opportunity for a potentially high impact therapeutic for a very serious disease that affects both children and adults,” said CEO Grass. “The increasing use of advanced DNA sequencing technology to diagnose patients with mitochondrial disease at the genetic level creates new opportunities to target therapeutics to specific causes of disease with large treatment benefits.”
To fully capture that opportunity, Modis is working on other molecules and therapeutic modalities to treat TK2d as well as other genetically-defined mitochondrial diseases.
Founding investor Aceras Life Sciences also participated in the round, with Osage University Partners tagging along. OrbiMed partner Rishi Gupta is joining the board.
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